|Our propensity to be seduced by shiny tech utopianism|
Earlier this month we saw a study from Denver that found they added congestion and cannibalized transit. The same is happening in New York City.
From Unsustainable? The Growth of App-Based Ride Services and Traffic, Travel and the Future of New York City. It's about Manhattan, of course, but Salem is really only quantitatively different, not qualitatively so. You may say "but Salem's not like a big city" and you will be right of course, but we are facing smaller versions of many of these same problems and are likely to face more of them in the future.
TNCs are fundamentally undoing the traditional cost incentives to use public transit....So do we need a summary for why skepticism on TNCs is still necessary and prudent?
As they steadily cut fares, TNCs are beginning to erase these longstanding financial disincentives [taxi and parking pricing] for traveling by motor vehicle in Manhattan. TNC fare offerings such as $5 flat rates for shared trips during rush hour in Manhattan put TNC fares at less than twice the transit fare, dramatically weakening the disincentive to travel by auto. Their attractive pricing will be a boon to patrons only until traffic congestion becomes insufferable -- for them and also for freight carriers, bus riders, cyclists and the city's economy.
Whether these fares are sustainable or even yield a profit is unclear. But for the foreseeable future, TNC fares will cover no more than the costs borne directly by drivers and TNC companies (e.g., drivers' time, costs of vehicles, auto insurance and dispatch systems). TNC fares do not reflect the costs to the public in congestion delay and emissions. These costs should be added to TNC operational costs in order to incentivize efficient use of scarce street space.
Road pricing is not a politically easy topic, as vividly illustrated by the intense controversy that surrounded Mayor Bloomberg's ultimately unsuccessful 2007 proposal for a cordon-based charge to enter the Manhattan CBD. But if TNC growth continues at current rates, fueled by low fares, the necessity of some type of road pricing will become more and more evident....
- TNCs are driving an increase in congestion in NYC and are cannibalizing transit there (this post)
- TNCs are doing the same in Denver.
- Cherriots' consultant Jarrett Walker warns, Sounding the Alarm about Uber’s Impacts on Transit, and on Cities
- TNCs are not healthy competition, and use underpricing in a play to drive out transit and taxi and other transportation options, "with passengers on average only paying 41 percent of the actual cost of a trip."
- Portland's mad at TNCs - "'they ran over regulators and consumers, and after we established basic community standards they tried to do an end run around the city in Salem,' says City Commissioner Nick Fish. 'They are chronic bad actors.'"
- In an earlier official City of Portland Statement, "Mayor Ted Wheeler is reaching out to mayors across Oregon and the country regarding recent reports that Uber used the Greyball tool to evade authorities in order to operate in locations where Uber service was resisted or banned."
- TNCs use drivers as lab rats
- The Washington Post says "Uber hires Eric Holder to investigate sexual harassment claims"
- The New York Times observes "How Uber Deceives the Authorities Worldwide"
- San Francisco Chronicle, "Uber’s self-driving cars stay on SF roads, defying city and DMV"
- National Bureau of Economic Research, "Racial and Gender Discrimination in Transportation Network Companies"
- Former NYC Commissioner of Transportation on refusal to share data: "Uber last week: NYC drop dead, you'll never get our trip data!"
The proposed Intergovernmenal Agreement on the Salem River Crossing remains perplexing. (More on the IGA here and here from back in January when it was announced.)
N3B has taken a full-court press in opposition to it. As a way to rally the troops it may have symbolic utility. But as a substantive proposal, it may be less effective. I don't want to say that N3B is wrong for sure, as it is not possible to know with certainty, but their position on this may have unwanted consequences.
- Council rejects the IGA, LUBA remands the appeal: Something of a do-over, at least for the land-use matters
- Council ratifies the IGA, LUBA remands the appeal: Basically the same as #1
- Council rejects the IGA, LUBA rejects the appeal and sides with the City: FULL STEAM AHEAD
- Council ratifies the IGA, LUBA rejects the appeal: Moderate checks provided by the IGA
It is the appeal at LUBA that will do the heavy lifting and make for effective action in a critique of the SRC.
But in one one situation, Outcome #3, when LUBA rejects the appeal and affirms the City's decision, and City Council also rejects the IGA, the combination is a minor disaster. In this case, the City and ODOT encounter no more checks on the SRC process and the Record of Decision can proceed to finality unimpeded.
If your goal is to stop the SRC, rejecting the IGA depends on LUBA remanding the appeal and finding against the City. And then if LUBA doesn't find against the City, there are fewer options without the IGA.
So it's still not clear why N3B opposes the IGA so strongly. It seems counter-productive, even. It is a tactically appealing maneuver in a Pyrrhic Victory that may be bad strategy as its defeat allows for the larger bridge.
In the end it may not matter. The Legislature, for example, is considering a scheme that might provide funding for a bridge, and the bridge is at the moment assigned a window of "10-15 years." This falls just outside of the ten year scope of the IGA. The operative time of the IGA may be largely moot and the IGA therefore an empty agreement, more for show than a real framework for any action.
But even a formalized delay of a decade has some value, and it seems like we should not just throw it away. By making the agreement, DLCD took themselves out of the case at LUBA and really just sidelined themselves. Rejecting the IGA does not bring DLCD back into the appeal at LUBA or reactivate DLCD as critics of the process in this set of decision points. There are just no apparent benefits to rejecting the IGA.
Maybe at the Council meeting more will come out about the IGA, and some or all of this will turn out to be wrong, but at the moment rejecting it seems unwise. Even as a flawed and limited check on the SRC, it has some value.
There are a couple of housing things also on the agenda.
The "2017-2018 Housing and Community Development Annual Action Plan" is up for approval and CANDO has posted substantial comment on it.
In this year’s Plan, the City has attempted to address the concern expressed in our Comment on last year’s Plan about the lack of specificity regarding its efforts to coordinate the community response to its housing/homeless problems. This additional information is helpful and necessary to citizens wishing to understand the actions that are being taken on their behalf in this area. But, the question remains whether or not these efforts are sufficient to address the problems in Salem’s homeless services delivery system, considering the resources the City has available to it.If you are interested in homelessess, that post and their entire series on local initiatives and committees is worth reading.
A text search of the Action Plan itself turned up no instances of "transit" or "bus" or "Cherriots," and only one instance of "transportation."
As we talk more about affordable housing, the transportation burden and compulsory autoism entailed by housing remote from grocery stores, transit, and employment centers needs to get more attention. What we give people in lower rents may be partially taken away by increased transportation costs and time.
Also on the agenda is adjusting the zoning code to allow for housing at Yaquina Hall. Apparently this requires changing allowed uses on all of the land zoned "Public and Private Health Services," not just the tax lot on which Yaquina sits. That's a sledgehammer for a single nail! This is more evidence that our current approach to zoning is not adequately responsive to modern needs. A form-based code would not have this problem, for example.
Strong Towns also has a timely note about "the high, high price of affordable housing." The Yaquina Hall project will cost about $10 million, I think, for 50 units. That's $200,000 a unit or so. 50 units is a drop in the bucket of total need, and at that price, including subsidies, it's very difficult to scale up a meaningful supply.